It doesn’t matter if your donation is large or small. It doesn’t matter if you give money or code.
What does matter is this: if you’re benefiting from the Open Source Movement, try to give something back.
It makes good business sense. And it is the right thing to do.
Before I joined O’Reilly, I worked in a small consulting company. As I joined, the company was migrating away from proprietary platforms to open platforms. We saved a tremendous amount of money and gave our customers far better service. Being able to use, modify, and redistribute free software let us finish jobs we’d never have been able to do otherwise.
In return, we submitted bug reports. We occasionally submitted patches, both on and off the clock. We knew that we owed a great deal of our business to a healthy commons of free and open source software… and now I know that keeping that commons free, open, and healthy was vital to the business.
The owner of the company allowed the Portland Perl Mongers to meet in our offices once a month. He rented chairs for the meeting. Maybe it’s not a big thing, but it was a way to pay back part of one of the communities which had produced so much great software integral to our business.
You don’t have to hire a core developer. You don’t have to release your own (non-derivative) source code. You don’t have to donate money to a foundation, or host a conference or a meeting.
You don’t have to contribute back to the communities which produce software you rely on… but if you rely on it now, aren’t you interested in its healthy future as well?